If you have ever traveled the coast of Oregon to photograph lighthouses, Florence is the town just south of Heceta Head Lighthouse. The action to the south of Florence is found on the 42 miles of sand dunes called the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, stretching from Florence as far south as Coos Bay. Take the first right turn after crossing the Siuslaw Bridge heading south. Drive out to the end of the jetty to find many trails that climb over a long ridge line of tall dunes, the largest coastal dunes in North America and some of the tallest, at over 500 feet in height. The dune trails are steep and the sand is soft. To find easier sand dune photographs, drive about 5 miles north of Florence to find several high viewpoints on 101, looking south, that are especially nice at sunset.
Sixty-one miles east of downtown Phoenix, near the town of Superior, Arizona, this 392-acre botanical garden has long been Arizona’s largest public garden featuring 2,600 different types of the world’s desert plants. Located at the base of 4,375-foot Picketpost Mountain where three miles of trails wind through fully mature cactus gardens, trees of the world’s deserts, wildflower gardens, and herb gardens, are all surrounded by a natural Sonoran desert environment. Most of the trails are level. More rugged trails climb higher into the surrounding mountains for spectacular views.
Everywhere you wander is something you’ve never seen before, like strange cactus with long blonde hair and bizarre boojum trees from South America. They look like Christmas trees with a huge ornament on top. Morning light filters through mesquite and spreading acacia trees framing massive clusters of golden barrel cactus that glow in warm backlight.
The Salton Sea, in the middle of the Imperial Valley near the southern end of California, is actually a lake-the largest lake in California at 35 miles long, 15 miles wide and 235 feet below sea level. This is one of the few places in North America where photographers can find good weather for a winter trip. When I arrived in late February, it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and no wind. When you tire of photographing ghost towns, dead fish and salt encrusted beaches on a toxic sea, there is a colorful location called Salvation Mountain, hidden away from the lake, three miles east of Highway 111 on the east side of the lake. This spot is not to be missed.
A few miles south of Bombay Beach is the small town of Niland (n-eye-land). Watch for the United Food Center at the junction of Highway 111 and Main Street. Drive east on Main Street, cross the railroad tracks and continue east where Main Street becomes Beal Street. It’s three paved miles from Highway 111 to Salvation Mountain. The mountain is fifty-feet tall and a hundred-fifty feet wide. A new addition that resembles an underground forest has been added on the south side of the mountain. You will need a very wide-angle lens to capture the effect of a forest winding through tight passageways. Salvation Mountain is an ongoing project supported by local volunteers. Donations, and cans of latex paint, are welcome.
Most large cities and many medium-sized cities in the United States have a zoo. There are over twenty-five in the state of California, and over 2,500 zoos spread across the country. Do an Internet search to find the best zoos in your area. I have visited several zoos recently to expand my wildlife photo collection and to take note of some tips that may help you with your photography at the zoo. Some zoos are focusing on and doing outstanding work at restoring endangered species with breeding programs and returning virtually extinct wildlife to environments that are being cleaned up and preserved. Zoos used to have long rows of cages keeping their animals “behind bars.” New zoos have been totally redesigned to resemble their animal’s natural habitats.
A few safari parks scattered across the United States are offering guided tours through expansive environments with a variety of large animals, like elephants, giraffes and these cape buffalo. Some offer overnight lodging in African-style safari tents for a unique experience. You can fall asleep to the night calls of the wildlife. In Northern California is a 400 acre wilderness where over 900 creatures are free to roam. The photography is wonderful without cages. Safari West Wildlife Preserve - 3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa CA.
The Finger Lakes region is filled with a dozen long, deep, and narrow lakes and is one of the more beautiful parts of western New York State. The last of the Ice Age glaciers retreated from this part of North America ten thousand years ago, leaving deep U-shaped valleys carved into an underlying ancient seabed composed of soft shale and sandstone. These north-south canyons are now filled with the Finger Lakes from Lake Ontario south to the Pennsylvania state line and from the Genesee River east to Syracuse.
Photographers looking for fall foliage will want to know about the hundreds of waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region. Streams flowing into the lakes cascade from layer to layer, eroding stone down rolling hills covered with hardwood forests of maple, beech, ash, and birch.
New York’s Finger Lakes region is filled with a dozen long, deep, and narrow lakes and is one of the more beautiful parts of western New York State. Photograph fall foliage and hundreds of waterfalls in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Streams flowing into the lakes cascade down rolling hills covered with hardwood forests of maple, beech, ash, and birch. Many of the streams that flow into the Finger Lakes drop as much as a hundred feet a mile. Streams flowing from the higher surrounding mountains erode deep canyons. Discover the best times to visit and how to find the best photography in issue #112 - Finger Lakes of New York.
One of the oldest still-standing pioneer homes in southern Arizona is in the village of Cherokee Stronghold. Nearby are the mining towns of Bisbee and Tombstone, Arizona. This issue #148 - South of Tucson, Arizona: Photographing the Sonoran Desert includes a hike into the Chiricahua National Monument through a fantasyland of stone towers and balancing spires. I always look forward to traveling though the Southwest to photograph the great variety of subject matter in an environment that can be hostile and sometimes dangerous with poisonous creatures, spiny cactus, extreme-weather conditions, and questionable roads. This issue also contains a variety of locations from Tucson’s Desert Museum and the Pima Air & Space Museum.
Thirty miles north of the Golden Gate, a hook-shaped peninsula extends from the California coast. Point Reyes offers panoramic images of the land meeting the sea for great photography. Miles of sandy beaches, ocean caves, green meadows, lakes, streams, and waterfalls can be found. Herds of tule elk graze open meadows on a narrow peninsula extending for miles into the Pacific. Capture winter fogs soften Point Reyes landscapes. Horizons disappear and whole forests are lost in the mist. Trails are uncrowded in the winter, my favorite time to photograph Point Reyes National Seashore.
Each spring, the Central Valley of California offers a wildflower display that covers southern deserts, including the Sonoran Deserts, from Organ Pipe National Monument to Anza-Borrego and the Mojave Desert. This photograph was taken on my trip to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in the Mojave Desert near Palmdale. In the 1800s, great fields of poppies grew wild, all over the state. The only large fields left in California are found here, in the western end of the Antelope Valley.
Many of my previous photo trips to Utah concentrated on red rock desert locations with bizarre geological formations, sand dunes, and cacti. For this newsletter (132 - Autumn in Utah's Wasatch Range), I traveled to northern Utah’s Wasatch Range on the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, the boundary between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin Desert. Late September usually brings the peak of fall color to these mountains east of Salt Lake City where canyon roads climb into evergreen forests and through groves of aspen painted in shades of orange and yellow, from late September into early October. I stayed until the first snow fell.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.